I have been a Marlins fan since I was born. At the ripe age of 2 years old, my family took me to the ‘03 parade. I have had season tickets 4 different times, found myself at hundreds of games, and bought way too many MLB.TV packages. In 2013, my passion for the team evolved further through the game of Jose Fernandez. I watched every start, going to see him on my birthday twice. I was hooked to Marlins baseball and their firecracker Cuban righty. I still remember the morning of September 25th, when we all found out the horrific news. As I watched MLB Network, I didn’t comprehend, rather couldn’t believe my eyes. I slowly walked into my parents’ room to tell them the news. Tears.
September 25th marked the loss of a Miami icon. One that would have sparked the young Miami Marlins into the stratosphere. It was a date that Marlins fans would hold close to heart. A hero to countless Cuban immigrants and thousands of young South Florida pitchers (like myself), Jose Fernandez lost his life in a boating accident.
Up until yesterday, September 25th served as a reminder of the man we lost. There is and always will be a sense of dread on that day, as we remember the life Jose brought to the world. The stories. The strikeouts. The smile.
Now, September 25th will be a reminder of Jose and the first time in 17 years that the Marlins have made the playoffs. Like it was out of a movie, we clinched this berth on #JoseDay. Call it our “Angels in the Outfield” moment. Jose may be gone, but his legacy will live on forever, especially now.
How did this full-circle moment happen?
More specifically, how did we even make the playoffs? The Marlins were 57-105 last year, and no that is not a typo. We were that bad. And statistically, we didn’t evolve that much this year. Statistically, we are the worst MLB team to ever make the playoffs. With a run differential per game of -.7 runs, we find ourselves at the bottom of statistics such as .OBP and WHIP, two of the most commonly cited stats that determine team success. Was it luck? Was it Jose pushing for us from above? Maybe, but there are two central determinants in this team’s unlikely success: culture change and shortened season.
Jose Fernandez helped to start evolving Marlin’s culture in his short time with the team. When we lost him, there was a need to start over. Whatever your thoughts are on the trades that followed, the Marlins organization identified what had to be done. Keep the players who brought in to the change and pick up players who did as well. Miguel Rojas was the centerpiece as he has been one of the most vocal advocates for what this team has done. Pieces such as Lewis Brinson, Starling Marte, and Sixto effectively pushed the culture forward as each player bought in. This shift can be seen in Jorge Alfaro’s description of the Miami Marlins as a “family.” They bought in and told themselves they could do it, and here they are.
This goes hand in hand with culture. When every individual buys into a singular mentality, they find themselves working towards a collective goal. The opportunity to effectively start at Game 102 tied with every team in the league allowed this culture to develop artificially. The hot 7-1 start augmented these internal beliefs across the organization. It pushed them forward, and it told them that this pipe dream was possible. More and more players bought in. And here we are with October baseball in our near future.
Final Thoughts on the Marlins Run
Jose Fernandez would be smiling looking down at this team. These guys practiced what he preached every time he took the field. Play hard and have fun. Don Mattingly should be the Manager of the Year without question, due to his ability to impart the shift in culture.
September 25th will no longer be a day of grief, but rather one that shows us anything is possible. Jose would be proud.